Gustav

Aug 31st, 2008 | By | Category: Environmental, Featured Articles, Lead Article

AT THE RISK OF SOUNDING LIKE A BROKEN RECORD…THE INTENSITY
FORECAST REMAINS PROBLEMATIC
. ANALYSES FROM CIMSS AT THE
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN SHOWS THAT GUSTAV REMAINS IN 15 TO 20 KT OF
SOUTHERLY VERTICAL SHEAR….AND THE LARGE-SCALE MODELS FORECAST AT
LEAST SOME SOUTHERLY TO SOUTHWESTERLY SHEAR TO PERSIST UNTIL
LANDFALL. THAT…COMBINED WITH THE CURRENT RAGGED STORM STRUCTURE
AND THE MID-LEVEL DRY AIR TRYING TO WRAP AROUND THE STORM IN WATER
VAPOR IMAGERY…SUGGESTS ANY INTENSIFICATION SHOULD BE SLOW.
ADDITIONALLY..GUSTAV IS OVER A WARM EDDY IN THE LOOP CURRENT
NOW…AND SHOULD PASS OVER WATERS WITH LOWER OCEANIC HEAT CONTENT
BETWEEN NOW AND LANDFALL. THE GUIDANCE RESPONDS TO THESE FACTORS
BY FORECASTING MODEST STRENGTHENING DURING THE NEXT 12 TO 24
HR…WITH THE GFDL FORECASTING A PEAK INTENSITY OF 120 KT AND THE
OTHER MODELS ABOUT 110 KT. BASED ON THIS…THE INTENSITY FORECAST
WILL CALL FOR GUSTAV TO RE-INTENSIFY TO 115 KT IN 12 TO 24 HR…AND
MAKE LANDFALL ON THE NORTHERN GULF COAST AS A MAJOR HURRICANE.
GUSTAV SHOULD STEADILY WEAKEN AFTER LANDFALL.

Right now, this is what constitutes good news for New Orleans.

Given the projected strengthening–to a category IV hurricane–and the predicted track that will take the storm’s landfall near to New Orleans–where the levees are either weak or uncompleted, and thus totally unequal to the projected huge 10 to 20ft storm surges–this might be it for the crescent city. Again.

There will be no more “shelters of last resort,” that fig leaf expended during Katrina when the rest of us learned astonishing numbers of our fellow Americans have no choice but the last resort. Some of the poorest people in the country–let’s be honest with ourselves, some of the poorest people in North America–are being asked to evacuate, with no resources to do so. Again.

Frankly, this should be exactly why we pay taxes–to help people without any means to follow mandatory evacuation orders. Of course, after eight years of Bush and even longer under Republican dominance, such public assistance will be woefully unequal to the task. Again.

Consider donating to charity. The American Red Cross has started a fund. It’s an ugly way to deal with this, but the only way with which we’ve been left.

The second storm of the century is about to hit New Orleans, the second storm of the century within five years. That should make you wonder.

Storms like Gustav and Katrina used to be once-in-a-century storms. If you’re a civil engineer designing levees to protect New Orleans, you have to consider that a levee only lasts for a few decades before it has to be rebuilt. Should you design for a once-in-a-century storm every few years, or for the more typical storm? Remember, you have a tight budget.

The levees protecting New Orleans were designed for category III storms, not these category IV monsters. The climate changed; the levees haven’t.

Water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico have been increasing. Warmer water means hurricanes become, on average, stronger. While there is plenty of public debate as to why these changes are occurring, there is no credible scientific debate–the addition of carbon to the atmosphere by human beings is contributing to these changes.

So, with all the discussion of the political ramifications of hurricane Gustav, I’m a bit more concerned over what this means for us trying to live on the planet.

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  1. Don’t forget the wetlands. A hundred years ago, before oil companies cut thousands of miles of channels through the delta, there was a hell of a lot more land between New Orleans and the Gulf. That land absorbed the brunt of storm surges from hurricanes.

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